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Hall Of Fame Legends Demand A “Massive Year” From Eichel

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In the first intermission of Tuesday’s Golden Knights and Kings game ESPN analyst and hockey legend Mark Messier made some interesting observations after only 20 minutes played into the 2022-23 season. The six-time Stanley Cup winner was critical of Jack Eichel’s patented passive attitude.

I love Jack Eichel, I think he’s one of the most talented players in the league. It’s a massive year for him. I’d like for him to come out and say ‘I want to be the best player in the league and I want to win a Stanley Cup’ and take the assertiveness that the team wants to see on and off the ice. He doesn’t have to be apologetic for saying he wants to be the best player in the league and win a Stanley Cup. Massive year for Jack Eichel. -Mark Messier, Hall of Famer & ESPN analyst

Some would argue Eichel’s mild demeanor is an important element of his success. The 25-year-old has never suited up for a postseason series, and yet he’s done an admirable job of covering up past frustrations. The Messiah believes it is time for Eichel to put that behind him and act more brash and cocky.

Messier made his remarks after Eichel’s intermission interview. Keep in mind, ESPN aired this interview twice to highlight Messier’s pronouncement.

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Despite Years Of Coaching Against Him, Cassidy Still Surprised By Aspects Of Eichel’s Game

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Bruce Cassidy coached his first game in the NHL almost exactly 20 years ago to the day. He’s stood behind the bench for three different teams (including VGK), he’s won 509 games, and he’s been within one game of lifting the Stanley Cup.

Yet even with all that experience, he still finds himself in awe of what Jack Eichel can do on a hockey rink.

I didn’t realize how strong he is at full speed. Going around people that get a piece of him doesn’t even knock him off balance. That’s kind of unique because he has the puck a lot. He’ll be going around a guy and he’ll put it in an area and the guy will kind of chip him and he’ll skate right on without losing any of his pace, that’s what has surprised me how often he’s able to do that. -Cassidy

The power in Eichel’s stride truly is impressive. Cassidy went on to detail a few occasions when he’s backchecking after a turnover and he catches up to players by taking two strides while the other guy has to take five or six.

The fact that a coach who has game-planned for him time and time again over his career still finds parts of his game shocking is quite stunning.

And, it’s not just his strength that’s amazed Cassidy.

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Power Play Tailored To VGK’s Strengths Still Working Towards Finished Product

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The power play will be a huge emphasis from Day 1 for the Golden Knights this season. After a few seasons of struggles, Bruce Cassidy was brought in to fix it. It’s currently very much a work in progress with shifting units, systems, and options through the first few weeks of Training Camp.

At yesterday’s practice, special teams were under the microscope with the power play working entries and in-zone plays against full-speed penalty killers. Unit 1 consisted of Jack Eichel, Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, and Shea Theodore while the other unit was Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Phil Kessel, Nic Roy, and Alex Pietrangelo.

There are definitely some concepts to build on as the units grow more and more familiar both with each other and what Cassidy’s system is trying to accomplish, but the head coach sees room for improvement.

What I hope to see is a little more chemistry where we are playing with more pace. Moving the puck quicker, supporting it, automatic outs, things like that, that come naturally to you. When you are seeing pressure you are able to sustain O-zone play. I don’t think our pace is where it needs to be in terms of moving the puck quick to break pressure, but again some of that is not a lot of reps and live reps. -Cassidy

One of the most noticeable features of the Golden Knights power play under Cassidy is a lesser reliance on the bumper player than he did in Boston.

We detailed the Cassidy power play in-depth this summer, and we’re already starting to see Cassidy tweak the system to fit some of Vegas’ most talented players.

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Bruce Cassidy Not The Only Coach Frustrated With Preseason Defeats

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This weekend the Golden Knights had their worst outing of the preseason. Vegas lost 7-3 to the San Jose Sharks and their head coach was not happy with their effort.

It’s an attention-getter. You’ve played your games you’ve been at Training Camp, we’re not nearly where we need to be so we’ve got to get the hell back to work the next time we reconvene. That to me is the message that will be sent when we get back together. -Bruce Cassidy

In most cases, exhibition games are considered tune-ups and extended tryouts for prospects. However, with the brief time Bruce Cassidy has had with his new club, every shift counts. With only eight days before Vegas opens the 2022-23 season, it’s vital the Golden Knights continue to learn and execute their leader’s instructions.

After three preseason contests Vegas looked as if they had absorbed their coach’s new defensive look. On Friday night it fell apart. So of course Cassidy was frustrated with the results. This weekend, the Golden Knights coach wasn’t the only one to voice his concerns after lopsided defeats.

Tonight, a lot of the pressure in our D-zone we couldn’t handle it. We couldn’t handle their speed. Consequently they get the opportunities. We’re going to get better but it’s just not happening as quickly as I’d like it to be. -Bruce Boudreau, Canucks coach

After a 4-0 shutout, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan told the media he was reluctant to talk about his team’s effort. In Pennsylvania’s other metropolis, Flyers bench boss John Tortorella was focused on his player’s confidence. In St. Louis, coach Craig Berube was at a loss for words.

Not enough. We didn’t do enough all around. It wasn’t a very good game. We should’ve played better for them, it was a great crowd.-Craig Berube, Blues coach

This very well could be a ploy from Cassidy and other veteran coaches to get their players’ mentally before regular season action. If you ignore the score, there were several positives to take away from Vegas’ fourth exhibition game. Offensively, Jack Eichel looks dangerous and heathy, while Mark Stone flashed his play-making abilities in his return, and Paul Cotter continued his seemingly undeniable run at a roster spot.

Also, it should be noted that Jake Leschyshyn dropped gloves and defended himself after landing a clean but hard hit on a Sharks player. That’s the character and culture stuff that un-frustrates Cassidy and other coaches.

VGK Players Undervalued In Fantasy Hockey Rankings

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It goes without saying fantasy sports are not an accurate measurement of how a player or a team will perform. Nonetheless, taking on the challenge of creating a winning lineup is an annual hobby for thousands of NHL fans. Right now, fantasy outlets are releasing their top player lists trying to accurately project the league’s point leaders for the 2022-23 season.

The same names lead the rankings as they have in previous years. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, Cale Makar, and Nathan MacKinnon round out the top five best overall players according to NHL.com, ESPN.com, TSN.com, Sportsnet.com, and anyone else with eyes.

Locally, center Jack Eichel is the first name to appear for Vegas (44th) on NHL.com’s list of top 250 NHL players ranked. Mark Stone (45th), recovering from back surgery, is one behind his teammate. Defenseman Shea Theodore (99th) is the only other Golden Knight to be ranked in the top 100. While it may look like the fantasy experts are disrespecting some of VGK’s stars, others are being considered a sleeper pick for 2022-23.

With Robin Lehner on the shelf for the season, Vegas’ No. 1 job is ripe for the taking and at this point, it’s Logan Thompson’s to lose. In 19 appearances last year, 17 of which were starts, the 25-year-old posted a 10-5-3 record to go along with a 2.68 goals-against average, .914 save-percentage, and one shutout. –Nick Alberga, Sportsnet.ca

Although Sportsnet noted the position is officially up for grabs, they feel comfortable suggesting Thompson as VGK’s first goaltender to go in fantasy drafts around Canada and the United States. Of course, there needs to be a ‘buyer beware’ prompt for those interested in any of VGK’s netminders. Experts would tell you to wait until the later rounds.

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Stone Shares Laugh With Eichel Over Tight Jeans

Since 2005, league policies mandate NHL players to wear business suits before and after games. Some would argue it’s a dated policy, but the skaters abide and agree to dress as CEO’s on gameday. The Golden Knights have certainly made a fashion impact since their arrival, starting with their custom inaugural season threads several players donned throughout 2017-18. Center William Karlsson infamously accepted his Lady Byng award wearing a jacket lined with the Golden Knights emblem. Only a handful of players could have pulled it off on national TV like the 29-year-old Swede did.

This week at Lifeguard Arena, captain Mark Stone was asked by Sportsnet which teammate was the most fashion-forward on VGK’s roster. In years past, Karlsson, Ryan Reaves, and Alex Tuch were anointed as the freshest in the Golden Knights locker room, but that honor has now been passed down.

Hmm, good question. Got to give it to Eichs. –Mark Stone to Sportsnet

It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Jack Eichel has the swankiest suits on the team. After all, the number one center has a high profile around the league and the extra scratch he carries around in his wallet.

He does have the best style. He has the best suits that’s for sure. –Stone to Sportsnet

Beyond the compliments from Stone, you can catch a glimpse of two teammates’ building a connection. For only having played together for a handful of games, the Golden Knights’ two biggest weapons appear to have formed a nice bond. Hopefully, it will set up for success in the regular season and playoffs.

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Feisty Golden Knights Head Into Camp With Similar Misfit Energy

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Last season the Golden Knights missed the playoffs. This offseason they traded away Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, and Dylan Coghlan and watched Mattias Janmark leave in free agency. Then, they found out starting goalie Robin Lehner will be out for the season after undergoing double hip surgery.

The combination of all of this has many believing the team not only is no longer a true Cup contender, but wondering if they are even a playoff team at all anymore.

The Golden Knights captain has taken notice of these opinions.

That’s fine. People can think what they want. After spending the summer in Canada, you wouldn’t believe how often I was told how bad we were. It’s great. I like that. All of a sudden we’re David instead of Goliath. It’s alright. I believe in this team. I believe in the guys, I believe in the leadership. –Mark Stone to Gary Lawless on NHL.com

So has the presumptive starting goalie.

It was too long of an offseason for us, and I think we’re hungry. The whole hockey world is doubting us right now, so we’re looking forward to getting back at it and showing people wrong, proving people wrong. It’s similar to how my career is, everyone has always pushed me to the side. I like it for our group, like I said we’re going to come out hot and hopefully prove a lot of people wrong. –Logan Thompson to Fox 5 Las Vegas

Even Jack Eichel got in on the action, seeing himself listed at #41 on NHL Network’s top 100 players list.

Obviously, I haven’t put a lot on tape over the last two years so I’m not going to argue with that. Do I think I’m the 41st best player in the NHL? No, but I don’t care about their rankings. –Eichel to Gary Lawless on NHL.com

It appears the Golden Knights are officially past the woe-is-me stage and are into the fiesty, almost angry, prove-you-wrong phase many non-playoff teams go through.

Vegas isn’t used to missing the playoffs and they really aren’t used to entering a season anything other than the Pacific Division favorites and Stanley Cup favorites.

They are neither this year and it appears to have struck a nerve with the roster. To a degree, it’s similar to the first season when the team banded together under the Misfits moniker. That team had an axe to grind with every team in the NHL and they made it their mission to embarrass as many as they could. This team seems to have its anger more pointed towards the rest of the world, which could be even more powerful.

The Golden Knights are confident in themselves and they are confident enough to take on all those who challenge them head-on. Now they need to do what the Misfits did and transfer that energy to the ice.

Golden Knights Have What Darryl Sutter Says You Need To Win

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Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter has been around the NHL for a long time. He’s heading into his 22nd season as a head coach, has won multiple Stanley Cups, led four different teams to the playoffs, and posted a winning record with every franchise he’s been with.

The change he’s had on the Flames has been impressive seeing them go from missing the playoffs to posting 111 points last season before being dispatched in the second round by the Edmonton Oilers.

Sutter is an old-school head coach. He believes in many of the long-standing traditions in the game of hockey and his no-nonsense yet almost aloof-sounding attitude makes him one of a kind. There’s no questioning his knowledge of the sport and what it takes to win in today’s game though.

Lucky for us, he’s willing to share exactly what he thinks it takes. In an extended sit-down with Sportsnet’s “The Big Show” Sutter was asked a myriad of questions about the team he currently coaches. Many of them were about his new players and the wild offseason his team just went through, but along the way he mentioned three different aspects of the game he believes a team must have to win the Cup.

Bottom line is we were not good enough at center ice. It showed up in the playoffs. The top teams in this division are three centermen deep and it really exposed us. –Darryl Sutter to Sportsnet’s The Big Show

Sutter was speaking about the importance of his team adding Nazem Kadri to go along with Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund.

Since the addition of Jack Eichel, the Golden Knights are strong down the middle. William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson will likely begin the season as the next two centers, but the option to use Nic Roy or Brett Howden gives the team even more flexibility.

Historically, center has been a bit of a weak spot for Vegas with Karlsson clearly filling the role as the team’s best. With him slotting down to 2nd or even 3rd best, VGK can go toe to toe with just about anyone. Also, the Golden Knights have a nice mix of players including an insanely talented scorer, a lockdown defender, and a speedster.

Next, Sutter pointed to the blue line.

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Four Prerequisites For The Golden Knights to Miss the Playoffs

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Yesterday we looked at the four prerequisites that had to happen for the Golden Knights to win the division. Today, we’re doing the opposite. Here’s what would have to happen for everything to go wrong for Vegas and see them miss the playoffs yet again.

Jack Eichel leads all centers in goals against per 60 at even-strength

Last year Eichel actually led the team with the fewest goals against per 60. Eichel finished slightly better than William Karlsson, and all of VGK’s other regular centers, while wearing a VGK uniform. However, the last seven games nearly saw Eichel blow the lead as he was on the ice for seven goals against down the stretch, mostly in games the Golden Knights lost.

If Eichel takes the step forward defensively that Bruce Cassidy and the entire VGK organization are hoping for, it’ll completely change the makeup of the way they can utilize their lines. Karlsson will no longer have to play the heaviest defensive minutes and Eichel could potentially pair up with Mark Stone on defensive zone draws against opposing top lines, something Cassidy will likely avoid early in the season.

This isn’t saying Eichel needs to turn into a Selke candidate, or anything close, but if he doesn’t become a reliable defensive option, the rest of the team will struggle to make up for the shortcoming.

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Miscommunication Unfortunately Shaping VGK Roster

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The Golden Knights have had a not-so-memorable offseason. The roster has changed dramatically and devastating injury news continues popping up week after week. A lot of it seems to stem from miscommunication between various parties.

Earlier this week, NHL.com reported that Mark Stone would shockingly miss all of training camp. The reporter was quoting from her conversations with Golden Knights center Jack Eichel and head coach Bruce Cassidy. One or the other likely unintentionally let too much slip out in his interview with Spiegel. Later in the day, the reporter tweeted the team had clarified some of the comments.

While the organization cleaned up some comments they never offered a concrete response to Stone’s training camp expectancy. “Availability is questionable,” is not a full response, and McCrimmon’s comments in his press availability left plenty of room for a timeline on Stone’s return. Vague information leads to speculation from the fanbase and they’ve done enough of that. From all accounts, Stone was on track to attend training camp on time with the rest of his teammates. That’s what the Golden Knights captain implied on NHL radio earlier this summer.

I’m battling a pretty bad back and ended up getting a discectomy and should be ready to go first day of training camp. – Mark Stone on NHL Network Radio in June 2022

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